Sally Lehr, one of 158 members of Texas’ class of 1964 back on campus for their 50th reunion last September, asked athletic director Steve Patterson why he wanted to charge them $25 per person to go stand on the football field at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Just to relive some memories.
“He said it was expensive to allow people on the field. They had to turn on the lights. They had to have people leading the tour and a groundskeeper,” Lehr recalled. “He said if athletics had to pay for all of that, they might have to cut the donation they made to the UT library.
“I was stunned by his arrogance and avarice,” added Lehr, whose stepfather was Jones Ramsey, Texas’ sports information director from 1961-83.
“I was raised in a household where you did everything you could to promote the Longhorns any way that you could. I was dumbfounded he thought that was a good public relations move - to charge $25 for people to step on the football field.
“He has turned the Horns ‘brand’ into a commodity to be sold.”
Lehr said she and her classmates, even former football players, were initially told it would be $15 per person before it was upped to $25. They never made it onto the football field at DKR that weekend.
Before Patterson took over as athletic director in November 2013, reunion classes were taken through UT’s football stadium free of charge as part of their weekend by the Texas Exes (UT’s alumni association).
PATTERSON’S LEADERSHIP QUESTIONED
More than 18 months after Patterson’s hire to replace 32-year Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds, Patterson is credited with making solid hires in football coach Charlie Strong and basketball coach Shaka Smart.
But more and more inside the Longhorn community are fed up with what they say is an athletic director who can’t or won’t relate to people and who puts making money or saving money above everything – even Texas student-athletes and coaches, who have seen cuts by Patterson impact them directly.
After more than three dozen interviews with those connected to Texas athletics, Patterson, who spent most of his career in the front offices of pro teams (Houston’s Rockets, Texans and Aeros as well as president and GM of the Portland Trail Blazers), is being blamed for misleading football season ticket holders, being disingenuous about funding for a new tennis facility (leading to a coach’s resignation), alienating longtime donors as well as faculty and staff, running off UT’s band director, defying former school president Bill Powers, planting a vicious press leak targeting former basketball coach Rick Barnes and of being more loyal to Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott than to those at Texas or the Big 12.
Matt Herring, who owns a commercial real estate company in Dallas and ranks in the top 8 percent of Patterson’s new Loyalty Points program that ranks donors, said Patterson is hurting the very coaches he’s credited with hiring.
“There is a total disconnect between this AD and the rest of the university,” said Herring, a former president of the Dallas Longhorn Club and an eight-time member of the advisory council to the Longhorn Foundation, UT athletics’ fund-raising arm.
“At a time when the football program needs all the support it can get, the program is receiving the opposite – all because of the athletic director.”
Those who express support for Patterson say he simply has a different leadership style than Dodds and is in a no-win situation trying implement changes after the reign of a three-decades-long athletic director.
They say Patterson, who is very close with the Pac-12’s Larry Scott, has innovative ideas (many of which mirror Scott’s, including international marketing/branding) that will pay big dividends for Texas down the road.
“I think Steve Patterson needs time to implement his initiatives,” said prominent Texas booster and former UT football player Bob Moses of Houston. “Change is hard. We all know that. But sometimes change is necessary.”
Patterson, who declined to be interviewed for this story, is praised by Texas women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky for bringing a cutting edge approach to the business elements of running a college athletic department.
Plonsky points to the nearly two dozen members of the Aspire Group hired by Patterson to market tickets to UT athletics more aggressively and efficiently, including “a personal concierge” for season ticket holders. Plonsky also points to Patterson bringing in the latest technology to make all sales involving UT athletics more interactive and consumer-friendly.
“No one can dispute that,” Plonsky said. “College athletics is big business, and Steve has helped us move forward in that area.”
Herring said he thinks Patterson’s pro sports background, including owning a company called Pro Sports Consulting, LLC (still listed as active on Patterson’s Linked In profile), has contributed to a cold, distant approach that has turned UT faithful into “mere customers” and negatively impacted coaches, student-athletes and the morale in and around Longhorns’ athletics.
“Once you start alienating the very coaches you’re praised for hiring, it’s unacceptable,” Herring said.
“Obviously, when 10,000 season ticket holders do not renew, when most of them are probably excited about the football coach and recruiting, there is a problem.
“And it is much more than just raising ticket prices. It’s talking down to the fans and faculty about not reselling tickets. It’s not being honest about numbers. It’s about not settling a lawsuit (filed by Oklahoma State against Texas assistant Joe Wickline) that puts your football coach in a compromised position.”
Herring said new Texas president Gregory Fenves, chancellor William McRaven and the Texas Board of Regents need to re-evaluate the hire of Patterson, who has three years remaining on a guaranteed five-year contract at $1.4 million annually.
A LACK OF TRANSPARENCY?
On March 9, Texas athletics announced its 2015 football season ticket renewal package, including this line: “To help shoulder the increased costs of recent changes in NCAA policy, seat prices across the stadium have increased by an average of six percent.”
According to numbers obtained by HornsDigest.com through an open records request, football season ticket holders were being handed a cost increase in 2015 by an average of 21.5 percent – with the Longhorns coming off a 6-7 season and a 5-year record of 36-28.
Steve Hank, chief revenue officer of Texas athletics, told HornsDigest.com the 6 percent average increase (actually 5.7 percent, he said, but it was rounded up) was based on a formula that involved the value of each seat “spread across” the entire, 100,119-seat capacity of Royal-Memorial Stadium.
But when comparing exactly what football season ticket holders paid in 2014, including their contribution to the Longhorn Foundation to retain those tickets, to what they are paying in 2015, season tickets were increased an average of 21.5 percent.
Of the 57,233 season ticket holders in 2014, 59 percent (33,695) experienced a season ticket cost increase for 2015 of between 25 percent and 50 percent, records show.
Along with the ticket increases for 2015, UT athletics also announced a no-resale policy for “grandfathered” season ticket holders – or you lose your season tickets. The result: roughly 10,000 football season tickets were not renewed by an April 10 deadline, multiple sources told HornsDigest.
Parking for football games used to be included with season tickets purchased through the Longhorn Foundation. Now, parking is separate, and costs between $100 and $195 for the season.
According to records submitted by Texas to the Department of Education as part of the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act of 1994, Texas brought in $161 million in athletic department revenue for 2013-14 - second only to Oregon ($196,030,398), according to USA Today.
Patterson has told people inside the athletic department he wants to increase UT athletics revenue to $250 million within five years.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
While there have been tens of thousands of dollars spent by Patterson on fact-finding trips to places such as Shanghai, China, and Dubai to increase UT’s marketing profile, there has been broad cost-cutting within the department that has directly impacted student-athletes and coaches.
* Travel cuts have meant the baseball team taking seven-hour bus trips to Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, when Texas used to fly commercial to those destinations. OU and Texas A&M fly to every baseball game longer than a three-hour bus ride.
* A 737 charter with 50 first-class seats used by Texas basketball since 2008 has been cut from the budget for 2015-16 in favor of less expensive, smaller regional jet charters, sources said.
Texas and Kansas were the only B12 schools flying the 737 charters, something former coach Rick Barnes fought for in contract negotiations so KU wouldn’t have a recruiting edge in how the Jayhawks travel.
* UT’s perennial power women’s volleyball team - in the Final Four six of the last seven years and national champs in 2012 - had its charter to West Virginia cut for next season, sources said.
Morgantown is UT’s most difficult road trip from a time and logistics standpoint. The team will fly commercial, which can add as many as five hours to the trip because the team flies to Pittsburgh and then buses more than an hour to Morgantown.
* And after The Masters, a golf magazine contacted Texas about buying an ad to congratulate former Longhorn Jordan Spieth for winning his first green jacket at Augusta National.
The money for the ad was taken from the golf program’s recruiting budget rather than athletic department funds, sources said.
* Sources said football coach Charlie Strong, who saw his and his coaching staff’s personal ticket allotment cut from eight to four last year, fought to increase the salaries of his eight quality control coaches from $24,000 to $50,000 after last season.
Texas has among the lowest salaries in the Big 12 for its quality control coaches – even behind last-place football finisher Kansas ($45,000).
Strong’s request was denied by Patterson, and six of Texas’ eight quality control coaches who had built relationships with the rest of the staff, left to find better paying jobs, the sources said.
* Coaches used to be allowed to go into the athletic dining hall whenever they wanted under Dodds, often to bond with their student-athletes or have a one-on-one conversation. Under Patterson, coaches are only allowed 30 visits per year. If coaches go to the athletic dining hall more than that, they have to pay $10 for each visit out of their own pocket.
* Texas band director Rob Carnochan just quit to take another job (at Miami) after Patterson cut $250,000 out of the band budget last year, resulting in less travel for the full band and a first-ever $132 fee charged to members to pay for their own practice and travel gear.
The full Texas band used to go to every in-state football game. But under Patterson, the full band no longer goes to Texas Tech, a longstanding rival of the Texas band. UT now sends only a “pep band” of section leaders. In 2015-16, the full band will go to the Texas-OU game and to either TCU or Baylor – but not both.
“I have loved my time at the University of Texas and working with class acts such as (former UT president) Larry Faulkner, DeLoss Dodds and Mack Brown,” Carnochan said. “My passion has always been the students and making sure they have a great experience, and it always will.”
When Hank was asked about the cost-cutting, he said the landscape of college athletics is changing rapidly. Texas is anticipating an estimated $10 million per year increase in expenses beginning in 2015-16 to provide UT’s 500 scholarship student-athletes “full cost of attendance” increases in financial aid as well as stipends for the use of their image and likeness in marketing by the school.
“I will take the experience we put out there for our student-athletes and our coaches and put it up against anybody’s in the country,” Hank said. “What we provide our kids here is fantastic. And that’s why we need the support of our fans to do that at a championship level.
“We have the resources we have. And it’s about the students. We are not professional sports. The dollars we generate go to the life of the student that we are educating.”
LIST OF COMPLAINTS GROWING
Those inside the department say Patterson seems to rely more on the opinion of Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott than anyone affiliated with Texas or the Big 12.
Patterson, who grew close to Scott while athletic director at Arizona State, is a big supporter of Scott’s Pac-12 Globalization Initiative, which includes Texas’ basketball season opener against Washington in Shanghai, China, this November and a proposed football game in Mexico in the near future.
Sources said Scott has struggled to find a Pac-12 school to agree to play in Mexico, in part, because of the security risk in taking student-athletes and fans into a country plagued with drug cartel violence.
Patterson, however, said last month there’s a better chance of Texas playing a football game in Mexico by 2020 than the Longhorns facing Texas A&M (even though Charlie Strong has said he thinks UT and A&M need to renew their rivalry).
Patterson added the opponent in Mexico was likely to be a Pac-12 team. Even though Patterson got his undergraduate and law degree from Texas, he has looked to the Pac-12 to bring in three of his most trusted allies.
They are Hank, who worked at Arizona State when Patterson was the AD there; Roy Shick, senior associate athletics director for development in the Longhorn Foundation from the University of Washington; and Patterson's personal assistant, Marsha Frank, from Arizona State.
Sources told HD Patterson was asked by a member of then-coach Rick Barnes’ staff about the prudence of sending the basketball team to China for a game on Nov. 13 as part of the Pac-12’s Globalization Initiative when Texas was already scheduled to go to the Bahamas for a tournament from Nov. 21-27.
The concern was that student-athletes on the basketball team would be away from class for half the month with finals approaching. Sources said Patterson responded with an email that said simply, “We’re going.”
Patterson never consulted with Barnes about the China trip ahead of time and has never consulted with Charlie Strong about playing a football game in Mexico, according to sources close to the situation. Many season ticket holders have complained that they would not want a marquee home game against a Pac-12 opponent being played in Mexico instead of Austin.
Patterson was chief revenue officer of Arizona State athletics for a year before succeeding Lisa Love as athletic director at ASU, serving for a year and a half, making $450,000 annually.
In November 2013, Patterson got a guaranteed, five-year contract at Texas earning $1.4 million per year. Sources said Patterson got such a big raise because he had income from a lucrative consulting firm (Pro Sports Consulting, LLC) that would need to be replaced.
Pro Sports Consulting is still listed as active on Patterson’s Linked In profile (and has been active since 2007, according to the profile, which also includes Patterson’s current job as Texas AD). And Patterson still has an active email account used for his consulting business – email@example.com. Arizona State is listed among “recent clients” as well as Texas Southern.
Texas athletics spokesman Nick Voinis said Patterson is not active in the consulting firm and that Texas is not a client of the firm.
According to Patterson’s Linked In profile, Pro Sports Consulting “provides services to companies, government entities and individuals who operate or seek to acquire sports properties as well as design, finance and build sports facilities.”
Patterson has called Dubai a vital, international branding center for Texas.
Patterson last month sent an envoy from Texas to Dubai, including Patterson’s wife, Yasmine Michael, who speaks Arabic, as well as Mack and Sally Brown, former Texas tight end David Thomas and former UT fullback Ricky Brown, now with the Longhorn Foundation.
According to UT officials, the trip, which cost tens of thousands of dollars, was meant as a fact-finding mission about how Texas could promote its brand in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates. Those inside the department who have had their budgets cut as Patterson continues to spend for his obsession with international marketing/branding say morale is plummeting.
FLEXING TO FLEX?
Sources say Patterson has made examples of people – good people – just to show he’s in charge.
Patterson agreed to renew the contract with Sodexo, UT’s catering and concessions provider, for another 10 years with the stipulation that every Sodexo employee servicing the Texas account be replaced.
Why? Sources said it was because Patterson suspected someone at Sodexo with leaking to the press in February 2014 that UT was about to start selling beer and wine at spring sporting events.
“It was Patterson’s call for a leadership change,” said former Texas basketball player Ivan Wagner, one of the 11 Sodexo employees on the Texas account who were fired. “Sodexo, in an effort to secure the contract, made the moves.
“We’re all going to be allowed to re-apply for our jobs. And in the interim, we will continue to provide excellent service for the University of Texas.”
This week, Patterson fired longtime sports information director John Bianco, who had been at Texas 23 years and was trusted by football coach Charlie Strong – without consulting Strong, sources said.
“Bianco and his wife totally hit it off with Charlie and his wife,” said one source close to the situation. “Charlie doesn’t trust very easily. But he trusted John, because John always had Texas and Charlie’s best interests at the forefront.”
Sources said Patterson plans to bring in someone from the NBA to head up communications for UT athletics and to hire Bianco’s replacement as sports information director in charge of football.
FACULTY AND STAFF BLINDSIDED
The 3,000 faculty and 18,000 staff members at Texas had their football season tickets double in price, when the athletic department blindsided them with an email in the summer of 2014 saying a long-term benefit program was being replaced with a straight 20 percent discount.
Once faculty and staff voiced their displeasure, Patterson blamed IRS and Department of Education regulations.
But when pressed for details of what regulations were being violated, Hank said employees have to declare on their taxes any benefit from an employer in excess of a 20 percent discount.
When told that is the obligation of the employee – not the employer – Hank said, “Unless we know employees are knowingly not reporting it to the IRS.”
When asked how UT athletics would know that information, Hank declined to comment. Hank also declined to produce any documentation of Department of Education policy impacting UT’s faculty and staff benefit program.
In a meeting with the 112 members of Texas’ Faculty Council, Patterson personally accused many of them of re-selling their tickets “in a way that did not benefit our student-athletes,” faculty members said.
Then-Texas president Bill Powers wasn’t happy with Patterson’s handling of the faculty and staff season tickets and asked Patterson to work with a committee of faculty and staff in coming up with a solution, sources said.
In the end, Patterson’s office offered a $199 pass for 2015-16 that allows faculty and staff into any UT athletic event that has seats available on a stand-by basis.
“Steve Patterson appears to be taking the ‘college’ out of college athletics, and he’s doing so under the guise of supporting the Longhorns,” said Rick Cherwitz, a Texas professor in the Moody College of Communication.
Cherwitz, also a former member of the UT Athletics Council, said he has not renewed his football or basketball season tickets for the first time in 37 years.
“This seems to be a business for him. But for faculty, staff and students, it is far more,” Cherwitz said. “I worry the line has been crossed. And I personally know of no faculty who sold their tickets to an outside vendor and would love to know the data on this.”
PATTERSON ALIENATES POWERS
Multiple sources told HornsDigest former UT president Bill Powers, who hired Patterson, had a frosty relationship with Patterson by the time Powers stepped down on June 2.
Those sources said Patterson blatantly defied or ignored Powers on several instances:
* Things got most heated between the two after Patterson, already told no by Powers, tried to convince others in the administration that athletics needed to stop splitting the $15 million annually from the Longhorn Network with the central university, the sources said.
Patterson blamed upcoming annual premiums of $10 million needed for the “full cost of attendance” increase in aid of $4,310 per student-athlete starting in 2015-16 as well as a $5,000-per-year, per-student-athlete stipend for the use of their image and likeness, the sources said. UT has roughly 500 scholarship athletes.
Powers became so irate at Patterson trying to circumvent him, Powers responded by extending the 50-50 split of the money the final 15 years of the 20-year, $300 million contract with ESPN, the sources said. Initially, Powers and Dodds had agreed to split the money the first five years of the deal.
Powers and Patterson did not return messages left with their spokesmen seeking comment on this.
* Sources say Patterson also defied Powers by continuing to claim $15 million needs to be raised for a new tennis facility when the university set that money aside 10 months ago. More on this in a minute.
* Patterson said in an interview with Texas Monthly last September, the city of Austin should help pay for UT’s new basketball arena because the city had gotten a free ride for 30 years by not having to bear any of the costs of the Erwin Center, which is planned for demolition in 5-8 years as part of UT’s new medical school.
Afterward, Powers basically apologized on behalf of Patterson and said to Patterson that Patterson should meet with the mayor’s office about any possible partnerships for a new basketball arena, sources said. Patterson had yet to meet with anyone from the mayor’s office as of the end of May, officials in the mayor’s office said.
* The sources said Powers also wasn’t happy there were more full-time athletic department employees now (400) than when Patterson was hired (360) in November 2013.
Patterson told the committee that helped hire him he was unafraid to make hard decisions. Patterson told committee members when he took over as president and GM of the Trail Blazers he asked for 92 personnel cuts and got approval for 88 of them.
But sources inside the department say the staff directory has ballooned because Patterson has had to hire so many people to help him raise money.
Powers told new UT president Greg Fenves to lay down the law immediately with Patterson, sources said.
On June 3, Fenves said he’s still got learning to do about athletics, the part of the university he is least familiar with.
COACHES SUFFERING UNDER PATTERSON?
While Patterson has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants (Disney) and surveys as well as international travel to Dubai and Shanghai, China, to increase the marketing and branding of Texas athletics. But he has refused to settle a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma State seeking $593,000 from football assistant Joe Wickline over a contract buyout.
“The University of Texas is not a party to the suit,” Patterson has said repeatedly, adding it is a dispute between Wickline and his former employer.
As a result, Strong, Wickline and assistant Shawn Watson have been deposed by Oklahoma State lawyers in a case that drags on toward a trial in Payne County, Oklahoma.
Oklahoma State had a provision in Wickline’s contract that if he went to a Big 12 school for any job other than as offensive coordinator “with play-calling duties,” then a $593,000 buyout would be owed by Wickline.
Several sources within the UT athletic department said the lawsuit has put Strong, whose No. 1 core value preached to players is “honesty,” in a bad light. That’s because Strong himself has already said publicly final say on play calling belongs to Watson.
During Strong’s deposition, he forgot the first name of QB Tyrone Swoopes.
Sources close to the situation have said OSU would accept “a fair” settlement in place of the $593,000 buyout penalty being sought. Sources say the football staff is anything but happy that the dispute has dragged on for months.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy and athletic director Mike Holder have also been deposed in the case, which has irked officials across the Big 12 as an embarrassing family squabble that needs to go away.
All of those mentioned have declined to comment on the case because it’s pending litigation.
* Former basketball coach Rick Barnes indicated publicly Patterson was the source of a vicious press leak before Barnes’ firing.
A source told the Austin American-Statesman, Dallas Morning News and San Antonio Express-News that Barnes had to change out his staff or face termination. All the while, sources said, Patterson was telling Barnes privately that he was fighting for him but that “people above me” wanted Barnes out.
Barnes’ accusation caught the attention of other UT coaches and some key power brokers at Texas and raised serious questions about the way Patterson does business, multiple sources said.
WHERE’S THE $15 MILLION?
When HD asked UT president Fenves on June 3 if $15 million had been earmarked by the central university for a new tennis facility, per a longstanding agreement between Powers and former athletic director DeLoss Dodds, Fenves said:
"That's been funded, and we will proceed."
He then described how some existing facilities - the UT Press building - will need to be relocated before construction can begin just north of Disch-Falk Field and across Comal from the Longhorns' softball stadium.
Fenves said the new estimate for the tennis facility is $17 million.
Sources said Powers was committed to $15 million for a new tennis facility and that if athletics wanted to go above and beyond that, they could raise any additional money.
Multiple sources told HornsDigest.com 10 months ago Powers made it clear to Patterson that $15 million for a new tennis facility was being deducted from a total of $50 million that athletics was set to share with the central university.
Sources said it was important to Powers that the university - not athletics - pay for a new facility because athletics had no say in the demolition of Penick-Allison, which was razed last June.
But for months Patterson would never acknowledge the $15 million when asked by HornsDigest.com about the funding for the facility. And, internally, Patterson kept telling everyone in the department every penny had to be raised to pay for it.
Some of the frustration of that utterly confusing dynamic played out when women's tennis coach Danielle Lund McNamara resigned her position effective immediately after one season on the job.
That followed Patty Fendick-McCain turning down a contract extension as women's tennis coach at UT and resigning last year. And it followed Texas being turned down four times in trying to hire McCain's successor.
UT was turned down by Alabama's Jenny Mainz, North Carolina's Brian Kalbas and was turned down twice by Rice women's tennis coach Elizabeth Schmidt, an Austin Westlake product, before hiring McNamara, who was the women's tennis coach at Yale.
An email from women's AD Chris Plonsky was sent out to UT faithful that blamed "a personal situation" for McNamara's resignation. Plonsky also added "we are feverishly fund raising to ensure that our men's and women's teams benefit from this new facility within the time frame of construction plans (which are in the early stages)."
Plonsky's email went out less than two hours before new Texas president Gregory Fenves confirmed during his introductory news conference that the tennis facility had already been funded.
Austin’s Carol Welder, a board member of the Capital Area Tennis Association and former vice president of the United States Tennis Association, has been following the fate of UT’s new tennis facility very closely.
“Texas made the decision to tear down Penick-Allison and made a commitment to replace it, and that needs to be honored,” Welder said. “If they are saying now the $15 million has to be raised for a new tennis facility - after the school vowed to spend the money to replace it – Steve Patterson should know his men’s and women’s tennis programs – premier programs - could be in jeopardy.
"If ground is not broken for the new tennis facility by the end of 2015, the completion date could push into 2017, meaning UT’s men’s and women’s tennis programs would have been practicing and playing on public courts with no place to meet for three years. How would recruiting survive that?"
A letter signed by 100 former men’s and women’s Texas tennis players was sent to Patterson pleading with him to make the new tennis facility a high priority so the men’s and women’s tennis programs can endure.
CAN PATTERSON RAISE MONEY?
Patterson has articulated goals with huge financial price tags: $450 million for a new basketball arena … $300 million for endowed scholarships … and at least $180 million to renovate the south end of DKR.
But he may be his own worst enemy when it comes to raising money - one of the most important jobs of an athletic director.
Ask any athletic director in a Power 5 conference and they'll tell you they are personally responsible for looking after the top 40 or 50 donors to athletics. Multiple sources said Patterson is incapable of that because he lacks the people skills.
So more and more people have been hired at Texas to do the fund-raising for him. Multiple sources said Patterson's wife, Yasmine Michael, is now taking a lead role in donor relations.
And Patterson has turned to his coaches to raise money - something former AD DeLoss Dodds always discouraged because it often put coaches in difficult positions.
Patterson has told all of his non-revenue coaches they have to "come up with ways to make your programs profitable." That has included Patterson telling coaches to cultivate/develop donors connected to their sports to help cover costs.
That was another reason McNamara resigned as women's tennis coach, sources said. She was having a hard enough time coaching and meeting with her players without a facility to start worrying about having to be the program's fund-raiser, too, they said.
Patterson himself has ruined the relationships with at least two donors who came forward with plans to give at least $1 million toward the tennis facility, those donors said.
The donors asked not to be identified. But both told HornsDigest.com that they wanted to meet with Patterson about potential naming rights. Both said they had numerous forms of correspondence initially ignored by Patterson's office before working with members of the Longhorn Foundation to set up a meeting with Patterson.
Both donors said they had more than one meeting canceled by Patterson initially. And then when they finally did meet with Patterson, the Texas athletic director let them know he was very short on time.
"The athletic director - supposedly desperate to raise money for a new tennis facility - tells me he only has 15 minutes when we sit down for lunch?" one of the donors said. "I said, 'I'm sorry. I thought you all were asking me for help.'"
The meetings went so badly, according to the donors, they both have vowed never to give any money to Texas while Patterson is the athletic director.
Patterson is hoping members of the Longhorn Foundation, such as former UT football player Ricky Brown and former UT swimmer Ricky Berens, an Olympic gold medalist, can connect with big-money donors.
Sources say Patterson doesn’t host prospective donors in his suite at football or basketball games or visit their suites.
Several big-money boosters told HornsDigest they’d be willing to allow their personal airplanes to be used by coaches to help facilitate trips to scout or visit with recruits, but they’ve never been contacted by Patterson.
When TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte asked Patterson at the Texas-TCU football game last November, in front of media members, where Del Conte could find the suite of Dallas real estate mogul Mike A. Myers, whose name is on Texas’ track and soccer stadium, Patterson didn’t know.
PATIENCE OR PUNT?
Sources close to Texas billionaire booster Red McCombs say McCombs believes Patterson’s seemingly aloof attitude is a bad fit at Texas. But when McCombs was reached for comment by HornsDigest, he said everyone needs to take a wait-and-see approach with Patterson.
“Steve was brought in to provide fresh ideas and a new approach,” said McCombs, who was friends with Patterson’s father, Ray, when McCombs owned the San Antonio Spurs and Ray Patterson was GM of the Rockets. “I think we have to wait and see if his ideas take off.”
Herring said Texas can’t afford to wait any longer and that Patterson needs to be bought out and removed.
“While I think most everyone is excited about the hires of Charlie Strong and basketball coach Shaka Smart, I do not believe in the direction our athletic department is going under Steve Patterson,” Herring said. “I fear there is real damage being done to important relationships involving those who have supported Texas athletics for years but are now being treated as an outsider.
“I don’t trust any information coming out of athletics, and that is a horrible feeling. Sometimes, great organizations make a bad hire. I think Texas thought it was getting something else when it hired Steve Patterson. Great leadership is often defined by the ‘second decision.’”
Sally Lehr, whose 50th Texas reunion last year included a confrontation with Patterson, said UT’s athletic director doesn’t act like a graduate of Texas.
“Longhorns don’t treat other Longhorns the way he does,” she said. “But I’m not sure he sees himself as part of the university. I think he sees himself as superior to the university.”
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